This Page 69 test is possibly a little more uncomfortable for me than some of the others, because I haven't actually looked at The Big Blind for a good couple of years. It has all the puppy fat and gawkiness of a debut, and yet....Visit Ray Banks' website, "The Saturday Boy."
Page 69 is a pretty decent microcosm of the entire book (all 170 pages of it). We find our narrator, double-glazing salesman Alan Slater, at an illegal poker game run by one of the croupiers at a local casino. Slater's ostensibly there as moral support to his drunken, bigoted and violent best friend, Les Beale, but his girlfriend's asleep back at his flat and he's in no state to do anything but sit and talk rubbish with a stoner known as The Waste. Needless to say, Slater becomes worried about his girlfriend's well-being once the paranoia hits.
I mean, I'm thinking I left at a stupid hour of the morning and I'm concerned about her getting home in one piece. My area's pretty safe, but I'm not sure about her neighbourhood. I know there's a lot of students knocking about there, but that's why the scallies hang around too.
Great, now I'm worried sick.
"Call it," says Beale, "and raise fifty."
"Nah," says Phil. "No way. String bet."
"We're not in the fuckin' card room," says Beale.
"Card room rules, Les," says Stevie.
I'm wondering if I left any money out that she could've used for a cab. I'm praying she didn't try to walk it – it's miles from my place to hers.
"Y'alright?" says The Waste.
"I dunno," I say, gulping back the beer.
"You want to watch that mixture, mate. Drink's a demon. I tell you that?"
I shift my weight in the chair. My heart's starting to pound and my vision's going tunnel.
"Fine," says Beale. "I'll take the fuckin' thing back."
There are a couple of things I had to stop myself from changing as I copied that out. But bizarrely enough, the page is indicative of the book – a lot of worrying, poker, alcohol and copious swearing. Unfortunately, one of my favourite exchanges happens on the next page. But this isn't the Page 70 Test.
Banks' forthcoming novels are Saturday's Child and Donkey Punch.
Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.